On Thursday, the Health Ministry in Israel announced that they would expand their polio vaccine campaign and urged parents to ensure that their kids are up to date in this regard, amidst fears of a new outbreak in the country. The first polio case was confirmed last month in Jerusalem in more than 30 years, which has given rise to increased concerns and resulted in a renewed polio vaccination campaign. The Jerusalem area has so far seen at least nine cases of polio diagnosed in the latest outbreak. The ministry also stated that they had discovered traces of the disease in the sewage system of Modiin Illit, Tiberias, Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.
A statement issued by the Health Ministry on Wednesday revealed that the ongoing polio vaccine campaign would now be expanded beyond Jerusalem and it would be rolled out throughout Israel for all children under the age of 6. The ministry said that the campaign would be expanded to children between the ages of 7 and 17 after the Passover holiday. It further disclosed that they have already vaccinated about 24,000 people since the campaign was launched. The purpose of the campaign is to ensure that children get all doses of the polio vaccine in case they have not done the full course, which is needed for protection from the disease.
Similar to other countries in the world, the polio vaccine is administered in Israel in multiple doses to children and is a part of their standard vaccine regimen. After the diagnosis recently, there have been concerns that children who were born between 2005 and 2013 had not gotten all the required doses of the polio vaccine. The disease usually spreads via contaminated water from person to person. The nervous system is attacked and people can become paralyzed within hours. Mostly children under 5 are vulnerable to the disease, but it has been wiped out completely in most wealthy countries.
The outbreak in Jerusalem saw Israel’s name being added to the list of ‘outbreak countries’ of the World Health Organization (WHO). There are 28 other countries that are also on the same list, after it had been declared free of polio back in 1988. Some of the other countries that can also be found on the list include Ukraine, Ethiopia, Iran and Egypt. These are places where the virus had been dealt with, but resurfaced again. Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the other hand, are endemic countries.
According to disease experts, there is a strong possibility of a resurgence in polio cases in the country. They have said that the numbers may be manageable, but there would be long-term damage amongst numerous children. Israel has occasionally discovered traces of the virus in sewage samples. The same had happened in 2013, but they had not seen any clinical diseases before. This has occurred for the first time in more than three decades in Israel and is a cause for concern because it could lead to a greater spread down the road if it is not controlled.